Usually, you serve steak with mushrooms. But on my recent visit to SALT Bistro in Boulder, CO, I ordered a steak made out of mushrooms. Well, fermented fungi to be exact.
Emergy Foods, also based in Colorado, is the company behind the Meati Foods brand of mycelium-based steak. The promise of mycelium is that it can better mimic the look and mouthfeel of whole cuts of meat. Getting those textures and flavors right isn’t easy, which is why companies like Impossible and Beyond started with ground products like burgers.
So when SALT added the “Bahn Meati Sandwich,” I had to make the trip to try it out. Coming in at a whopping $16, it was quite a stretch for my millennial budget. It is served on a house-made ciabatta bun, with a pile of pickled veggies and sriracha aioli. (I recommend ordering it with a side of the polenta fries.)
When it arrived, I immediately noticed how juicy the thick slices of “steak” in the sandwich were. If I didn’t know it was plant-based, I easily would have confused it for real meat. As I took my first bite the word “succulent” popped into mind. It had a vague savory/umami flavor, and a flesh-like texture. This might be a turnoff for vegans who shun meat in the first place. But as a vegan myself, I was actually hoping for a little more of the fattiness and char of steaks I ate in my pre-vegan days.
Mycelium-based meat alternative products are newer in the plant-based space but there are several companies offering up fungi as a meat alternative. Prime Roots uses koji, the same fungus used to make miso, to create a realistic plant-based bacon. AtLast is also creating an alternative bacon product by growing sheets of mycelium.
Meati Foods initially plans to offer their steaks in upscale restaurants to build their brand and manage a young supply chain. On its Instagram account, Meati announced that they are working to get Meati in different cities by Fall 2020. I look forward to ordering it again, though my budget would much prefer to see strips of Meati on a $3 plant-based carne asada taco in the future.